CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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A NEW WAY TO GOVERN THAT BRINGS PEACE

When a country is at peace, prosperity thrives.  Peace brings an attitude of confidence.  Peace brings a “new normal” after war with those who cause suffering, torment, shame and death. Peace comes to us as the Son of Man and Son of God—Jesus.  When He comes back again, He will establish a new government that will be good for all people of all nations.  Jesus will make all things right.  Jesus sets us right with God. 

Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

Isaiah 16, The Message

A New Government in the David Tradition

16 1-4 “Dispatch a gift of lambs,” says Moab,
    “to the leaders in Jerusalem—
Lambs from Sela sent across the desert
    to buy the goodwill of Jerusalem.
The towns and people of Moab
    are at a loss,
New-hatched birds knocked from the nest,
    fluttering helplessly
At the banks of the Arnon River,
    unable to cross:
‘Tell us what to do,
    help us out!
Protect us,
    hide us!
Give the refugees from Moab
    sanctuary with you.
Be a safe place for those on the run
    from the killing fields.’”

4-5 “When this is all over,” Judah answers,
    “the tyrant toppled,
The killing at an end,
    all signs of these cruelties long gone,
A new government of love will be established
    in the venerable David tradition.
A Ruler you can depend upon
    will head this government,
A Ruler passionate for justice,
    a Ruler quick to set things right.”

* * *

6-12 We’ve heard—everyone’s heard!—of Moab’s pride,
    world-famous for pride—
Arrogant, self-important, insufferable,
    full of hot air.
So now let Moab lament for a change,

    with antiphonal mock-laments from the neighbors!
What a shame! How terrible!
    No more fine fruitcakes and Kir-hareseth candies!
All those lush Heshbon fields dried up,
    the rich Sibmah vineyards withered!
Foreign thugs have crushed and torn out
    the famous grapevines
That once reached all the way to Jazer,
    right to the edge of the desert,
Ripped out the crops in every direction
    as far as the eye can see.

I’ll join the weeping. I’ll weep right along with Jazer,
    weep for the Sibmah vineyards.
And yes, Heshbon and Elealeh,
    I’ll mingle my tears with your tears!
The joyful shouting at harvest is gone.
    Instead of song and celebration, dead silence.
No more boisterous laughter in the orchards,
    no more hearty work songs in the vineyards.
Instead of the bustle and sound of good work in the fields,
    silence—deathly and deadening silence.
My heartstrings throb like harp strings for Moab,
    my soul in sympathy for sad Kir-heres.
When Moab trudges to the shrine to pray,
    he wastes both time and energy.
Going to the sanctuary and praying for relief
    is useless. Nothing ever happens.

13-14 This is God’s earlier Message on Moab. God’s updated Message is, “In three years, no longer than the term of an enlisted soldier, Moab’s impressive presence will be gone, that splendid hot-air balloon will be punctured, and instead of a vigorous population, just a few shuffling bums panhandling handouts.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Background by Warren Wiersbe,

“The one place the Assyrians could not conquer was Jerusalem. Though the Assyrian army entered the kingdom of Judah and did a great deal of damage to the land, it could not capture Jerusalem. Instead of fleeing to Mount Zion, however, the Moabite fugitives fled south to the fords of the Arnon River and the rock city of Sela in Edom.”

Isaiah warned the people that they would need more than a request: They would need to submit to the king of Judah, which meant acknowledging the God of Judah. In that day, sending animals (the lambs) to a ruler was a form of paying tribute.

Isaiah was not impressed and neither was God with the appeals of the Moabites. He knew of their pride, arrogance, and rage, and he announced that the nation was destined to be destroyed. Why? Because they wanted Judah’s help, but they did not want Judah’s God.

Friends, we sometimes do that by our lack of gratefulness.  How many times, in the heat of troubling circumstances do we turn to others for help, only to go on about normal life when the trouble is over?  People help us who are prodded by God in them to be His hands and feet on earth.  Do we recognize that all that is good comes from God?  Do we give and live in gratitude to God for all He has done and is doing?  We need to lay down all arrogance and pride when things are going well.  May we humble ourselves before God with sincere hearts who seek His wisdom.  Only then will we grow Christ-like character from all the challenges of this world.

Verse 5 is definitely a messianic promise, pointing to the day when Messiah will reign in righteousness and mercy on David’s throne. But Moab would not submit; they wanted deliverance on their own terms.

Moab’s pride kept them from submitting to Judah, and this led to their defeat. Their boasting would turn into wailing and their songs into funeral dirges. Moab would become like a vineyard trampled down and a fruitful field left unharvested.  So sad.

What is our pride and arrogance keeping us from right now? 

How is our pride hurting us? 

How does arrogance hurt our relationship with God and others? 

Lord,

There is no room in our relationship for my arrogance and pride.  I come to you with a more humbled heart this morning, thanking you for all You have done, are doing and will do in my life here on earth.  You made all things right by your sacrifice.  You give peace in the middle of storms, unending joy with love, mercy and grace no matter what our circumstances are at the moment.  No one but You can do that for us.  Thank you for your “new government” of all that is right, good and pleasing to You.  Help us to love like you love without conditions, without expecting anything in return for ourselves but to simply love.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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GOD CLEANS HOUSE

God created the world and all its inhabitants.  God cleanses the world of evil that is destroying his created.  This is not called karma, it’s called justice.  God cleans what He has created when it gets dirty by the influence of sin.

As God judges Moab, their god is unable to save them, despite their mourning, and their armies are useless. God has compassion for Moab, nevertheless, and will allow some people to escape as fugitives to Zoar. The green grass will wither, wailing will be throughout the borders, and those who escape to Dimon will be mauled and taken by lions, as will any remnant remaining in their ravaged land.

Isaiah 15, The Message

Poignant Cries Reverberate Through Moab

15 1-4 A Message concerning Moab:

Village Ar of Moab is in ruins,
    destroyed in a night raid.
Village Kir of Moab is in ruins,
    destroyed in a night raid.
Village Dibon climbs to its chapel in the hills,
    goes up to lament.
Moab weeps and wails
    over Nebo and Medba.
Every head is shaved bald,
    every beard shaved clean.
They pour into the streets wearing black,
    go up on the roofs, take to the town square,
Everyone in tears,
    everyone in grief.

Towns Heshbon and Elealeh cry long and loud.
    The sound carries as far as Jahaz.
Moab sobs, shaking in grief.
    The soul of Moab trembles.

5-9 Oh, how I grieve for Moab!
    Refugees stream to Zoar
    and then on to Eglath-shelishiyah.
Up the slopes of Luhith they weep;
    on the road to Horonaim they cry their loss.
The springs of Nimrim are dried up—
    grass brown, buds stunted, nothing grows.
They leave, carrying all their possessions
    on their backs, everything they own,
Making their way as best they can
    across Willow Creek to safety.
Poignant cries reverberate
    all through Moab,
Gut-wrenching sobs as far as Eglaim,
    heart-racking sobs all the way to Beer-elim.
The banks of the Dibon crest with blood,
    but God has worse in store for Dibon:
A lion—a lion to finish off the fugitives,
    to clean up whoever’s left in the land.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

What we know in our time is that Jesus IS indeed coming back to take all who believe back with Him.  He is preparing all the rooms for our eternal stay right now.  To those who refuses to believe or obey, there will be a cleansing.  God is sovereign.  God is compassionate, not wanting anyone to perish, but when that Day comes, we must be ready.

My dad used to say, we might be surprised by who will be in heaven.  Man’s judgement is self-motivated in all kinds of ways. God’s judgement is merciful and compassionate but complete.  God knows our hearts.  God sees what is in our minds at any moment.  God also sees what motivates and drives our behavior each day we live on earth.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing that is hidden from God.  So, only God’s Son, who is God, can be the judge and bring peace at last.   

Are we ready?

Lord,

Thank you for this sobering passage of lament over sins of self, following gods who are not you, worshiping anything and anyone but you.  Thank you for abiding with your power in those who believe so we know the difference in world thinking and your thinking.  Your thoughts are higher, so help us to think more like you so we will behave more like you taught us while on earth.  Thank you, dear Jesus, for saving my soul and making me whole.

Help me to love like you love me.

In Jesus Name, Amen                                                   

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GOD DOES WHAT HE SAYS

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

This old hymn plays in the background of my mind this morning as we study Isaiah.  God, our Father in heaven, is always in control when human efforts fail and cause more problems.  He is faithful and just to all who believe and follow in His ways.  He is our Provider, Healer, Peace, Problem Solver, Protector, Savior, and Lord.  ALL that we need, He knows about it first and has a plan to provide for that need.  When we are troubled and confused, He provides a way through it all so we can get to the other side with more wisdom, insight and understanding so we can help someone else through.  God is like that, friends, and ever so faithful!  Great is His faithfulness to us.  God never fails us.  God is always with us.  Humans cannot use the words “never” and “always” like God can.  God has proven Himself to us over and over again throughout the history of humans. 

Believe and be saved. Follow and be made whole and holy by God in us.

Isaiah 14, The Message

Now You Are Nothing—

1-2 But not so with JacobGod will have compassion on Jacob. Once again he’ll choose Israel. He’ll establish them in their own country. Outsiders will be attracted and throw their lot in with Jacob. The nations among whom they lived will actually escort them back home, and then Israel will pay them back by making slaves of them, men and women alike, possessing them as slaves in God’s country, capturing those who had captured them, ruling over those who had abused them.

3-4 When God has given you time to recover from the abuse and trouble and harsh servitude that you had to endure, you can amuse yourselves by taking up this satire, a taunt against the king of Babylon:

4-6 Can you believe it? The tyrant is gone!
    The tyranny is over!
God has broken the rule of the wicked,
    the power of the bully-rulers
That crushed many people.
    A relentless rain of cruel outrage
Established a violent rule of anger
    rife with torture and persecution.

7-10 And now it’s over, the whole earth quietly at rest.
    Burst into song! Make the rafters ring!
Ponderosa pine trees are happy,
    giant Lebanon cedars are relieved, saying,
“Since you’ve been cut down,
    there’s no one around to cut us down.”
And the underworld dead are all excited,
    preparing to welcome you when you come.
Getting ready to greet you are the ghostly dead,
    all the famous names of earth.
All the buried kings of the nations
    will stand up on their thrones
With well-prepared speeches,
    royal invitations to death:
“Now you are as nothing as we are!
    Make yourselves at home with us dead folks!”

11 This is where your pomp and fine music led you, Babylon,
    to your underworld private chambers,
A king-size mattress of maggots for repose
    and a quilt of crawling worms for warmth.

12 What a comedown this, O Babylon!
    Daystar! Son of Dawn!
Flat on your face in the underworld mud,
    you, famous for flattening nations!

13-14 You said to yourself,
    “I’ll climb to heaven.
I’ll set my throne
    over the stars of God.
I’ll run the assembly of angels
    that meets on sacred Mount Zaphon.
I’ll climb to the top of the clouds.
    I’ll take over as King of the Universe!”

15-17 But you didn’t make it, did you?
    Instead of climbing up, you came down—
Down with the underground dead,
    down to the abyss of the Pit.
People will stare and muse:
    “Can this be the one
Who terrorized earth and its kingdoms,
    turned earth to a moonscape,
Wasted its cities,
    shut up his prisoners to a living death?”

18-20 Other kings get a decent burial,
    honored with eulogies and placed in a tomb.
But you’re dumped in a ditch unburied,
    like a stray dog or cat,
Covered with rotting bodies,
    murdered and indigent corpses.
Your dead body desecrated, mutilated—
    no state funeral for you!
You’ve left your land in ruins,
    left a legacy of massacre.
The progeny of your evil life
    will never be named. Oblivion!

21 Get a place ready to slaughter the sons of the wicked
    and wipe out their father’s line.
Unthinkable that they should own a square foot of land
    or desecrate the face of the world with their cities!

22-23 “I will confront them”—Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies—“and strip Babylon of name and survivors, children and grandchildren.” God’s Decree. “I’ll make it a worthless swamp and give it as a prize to the hedgehog. And then I’ll bulldoze it out of existence.” Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Who Could Ever Cancel Such Plans?

24-27 God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaks:

“Exactly as I planned,
    it will happen.
Following my blueprints,
    it will take shape.
I will shatter the Assyrian who trespasses my land
    and stomp him into the dirt on my mountains.
I will ban his taking and making of slaves
    and lift the weight of oppression from all shoulders.”
This is the plan,
    planned for the whole earth,
And this is the hand that will do it,
    reaching into every nation.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies has planned it.
    Who could ever cancel such plans?

His is the hand that’s reached out.
    Who could brush it aside?

28-31 In the year King Ahaz died, this Message came:

Hold it, Philistines! It’s too soon to celebrate
    the defeat of your cruel oppressor.
From the death throes of that snake a worse snake will come,
    and from that, one even worse.
The poor won’t have to worry.
    The needy will escape the terror.
But you Philistines will be plunged into famine,
    and those who don’t starve, God will kill.
Wail and howl, proud city!
    Fall prostrate in fear, Philistia!
On the northern horizon, smoke from burned cities,
    the wake of a brutal, disciplined destroyer.

32 What does one say to
    outsiders who ask questions?
Tell them, “God has established Zion.
    Those in need and in trouble find refuge in her.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Warren Wiersbe give us a little history for this passage;

“The picture is of a mighty monarch whose pride has brought him to destruction. This is what happened to Belshazzar when Darius the Mede captured Babylon in 539 B.C. (See Daniel 5). Isaiah described the king’s arrival in Sheol, the world of the dead, where the king’s wealth, glory, and power were gone. The dead kings already in Sheol stood in tribute to him, but it was all a mockery. Death is the great leveler; no kings are in the world of the dead. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning” suggests that this king’s glory did not last very long. The morning star shines but is soon swallowed up by the light of the sun.”

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with 10, 000 beside

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

“The phrase “son of the morning” means “morning star” and indicates that Satan tries to imitate Jesus Christ, who is “the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16). “I will be like the Most High” reveals his basic strategy, for he is an imitator (2 Cor. 11:13–15). Like the king of Babylon, Satan will one day be humiliated and defeated. He will be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12) and finally cast into hell (Rev. 20:10).” –Wiersbe

God will provide a way for His own, His Chosen.  That Way is Jesus, Savior to all nations who will believe and follow Him as Lord of their lives.  Jesus is the only Way to Truth that gives Life now and forever.  We who believe are His Chosen.

Lord,

Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole.  Thank you for all your provisions and protection through good times and challenging times.  Thank you for the rough times that taught me great lessons of endurance and of your great love and faithfulness to us!  Thank you for always being with me.  Thank you for never letting me go.  Thank you for your love, mercy and grace.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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AND THE WINNER IS…

We are and always will be “at war” with the one cast from heaven for wanting all power, control and glory for himself.  He didn’t want to do what God said, he wanted to be God.  This evil of self first appeared to Adam and Eve, God’s first created humans, in the form of a serpent in God’s perfect garden to draw them away from all that was God.  Because God gives his created humans the power of choice, they chose evil’s glossy presentation of self as the better way to live.  God cannot be where sin is with lies, manipulations, trickery, so Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of His Holy Presence.  But God still loved…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

So ultimately, God made a Way to lead people back to His Truth so that eternal Life, real Life, could be possible after falling for evil.  Evil is Babylon in this prophecy of Isaiah.  This is a prophecy against Babylon. The word “Babel” means “gateway to a god” and sounds like the Hebrew word balal, which means “confusion” (See also Gen. 10:8–10; 11:1–9).

In Scripture, Babylon symbolizes the world system that humans have built in defiance of God. Jerusalem and Babylon are contrasting cities: One is the chosen city of God; the other is the wicked city of sinful humanity. The city of God will last forever, but the rebellious, human city will ultimately be destroyed (See also Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17, 18).

Isaiah 13, The Message

Babylon Is Doomed!

The Message on Babylon. Isaiah son of Amoz saw it:

2-3 “Run up a flag on an open hill.
    Yell loud. Get their attention.
Wave them into formation.
    Direct them to the nerve center of power.
I’ve taken charge of my special forces,
    called up my crack troops.
They’re bursting with pride and passion
    to carry out my angry judgment.”

4-5 Thunder rolls off the mountains
    like a mob huge and noisy—
Thunder of kingdoms in an uproar,
    nations assembling for war.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies is calling
    his army into battle formation.

They come from far-off countries,
    they pour in across the horizon.
It’s God on the move with the weapons of his wrath,
    ready to destroy the whole country.

6-8 Wail! God’s Day of Judgment is near—
    an avalanche crashing down from the Strong God!
Everyone paralyzed in the panic,
    hysterical and unstrung,
Doubled up in pain
    like a woman giving birth to a baby.
Horrified—everyone they see
    is like a face out of a nightmare.

* * *

9-16 “Watch now. God’s Judgment Day comes.
    Cruel it is, a day of wrath and anger,
A day to waste the earth
    and clean out all the sinners.
The stars in the sky, the great parade of constellations,
    will be nothing but black holes.
The sun will come up as a black disk,
    and the moon a blank nothing.
I’ll put a full stop to the evil on earth,
    terminate the dark acts of the wicked.
I’ll gag all braggarts and boasters—not a peep anymore from them—
    and trip strutting tyrants, leave them flat on their faces.
Proud humanity will disappear from the earth.
    I’ll make mortals rarer than hens’ teeth.
And yes, I’ll even make the sky shake,
    and the earth quake to its roots
Under the wrath of God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    the Judgment Day of his raging anger.
Like a hunted white-tailed deer,
    like lost sheep with no shepherd,
People will huddle with a few of their own kind,
    run off to some makeshift shelter.
But tough luck to stragglers—they’ll be killed on the spot,
    throats cut, bellies ripped open,
Babies smashed on the rocks
    while mothers and fathers watch,
Houses looted,
    wives raped.

17-22 “And now watch this:
    Against Babylon, I’m inciting the Medes,
A ruthless bunch indifferent to bribes,
    the kind of brutality that no one can blunt.
They massacre the young,
    wantonly kick and kill even babies.
And Babylon, most glorious of all kingdoms,
    the pride and joy of Chaldeans,
Will end up smoking and stinking like Sodom,
    and, yes, like Gomorrah, when God had finished with them.
No one will live there anymore,
    generation after generation a ghost town.
Not even Bedouins will pitch tents there.
    Shepherds will give it a wide berth.
But strange and wild animals will like it just fine,
    filling the vacant houses with eerie night sounds.
Skunks will make it their home,
    and unspeakable night hags will haunt it.
Hyenas will curdle your blood with their laughing,
    and the howling of coyotes will give you the shivers.

“Babylon is doomed.
    It won’t be long now.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Warren Wiersbe shares the history of Babylon with us:

“God punishes His enemies. The city of Babylon was completely destroyed in 689 B.C. by Sennacherib and the Assyrian army, but it was rebuilt by Sennacherib’s son. In 539 B.C., Darius the Mede captured the city (Daniel 5:31), but he did not destroy it. In the centuries that followed, Babylon had its shining moments, but after the death of its last great conqueror, Alexander the Great, the city declined and soon was no more. Isaiah’s prophecy of this chapter was fulfilled, for the city was not rebuilt.”

Evil doesn’t win.  Evil never wins.  God always wins in the end.  We have two choices to follow.  We must choose well for our very lives depend on it.

Choose Jesus.  Believe in Jesus, repent of the sins of evil and be saved for eternity.  In the meantime, we have the power of the resurrected Christ living in us to help us in all the details of life now!  We choose Him because, while we were yet sinners, He chose us and died to save us from the punishment we deserve.  There is NO ONE like our God.  There is no one but Jesus who can save us from our selfishness and resulting sins.

Lord,

Thank you for saving my soul for eternity. Thank you for being with us always. Thank you for the confidence in knowing that you win over evil.  Always.  Thank you for wisdom to choose well. Thank you for power to abide by choosing You above all.  Thank you for the Way to Truth that gives Life here now and forever with You.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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RAISE THE ROOF!

I don’t know where you are, what you are thinking or doing, but I know I needed this Word from God at this very hour on this very day!  God is my strength, my song in the night that replaces my worry of wonderings with His peace.  God is my song of salvation, the One and Only who has saved my soul, healed my broken and bruised heart, and put me back together again. 

God is love.  He loved me first in ways that drew me to Him, clinging to Him, embracing that love so deeply and securely that I cannot let go.  I learned from the embrace that He will not let go of me!  Oh Lord, what precious thoughts I have about you this morning!  There is NO ONE like you, dear Jesus!  There is no one like our God!

Read the words, as many times as necessary, to shout His praises, thanking God for all He has done and is doing.  This is our response today—and always!  May we raise the roof of our hearts, minds and souls with pure, complete, focused, unrelenting praise.  God has come to save and redeem us to live for Him and with Him forever! Tell the world!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

Go, tell, point the Way to Truth that gives us Life now and forever.  Point to Jesus!

Isaiah 12, The Message

My Strength and Song

12 And you will say in that day,
    “I thank you, God.
You were angry
    but your anger wasn’t forever.
You withdrew your anger
    and moved in and comforted me.

“Yes, indeed—God is my salvation.
    I trust, I won’t be afraid.
God—yes God!—is my strength and song,
    best of all, my salvation!”

3-Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water
    from the wells of salvation.
And as you do it, you’ll say,
    “Give thanks to God.
Call out his name.
    Ask him anything!
Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done,
    spread the news of his great reputation!

5-6 “Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all!
    Let the whole earth know what he’s done!
Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out, O Zion!
    The Greatest lives among you: The Holy of Israel.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Salvation is a key theme in this song. “In that day” refers to the day of Israel’s regathering and reunion and the righteous reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Warren Wiersbe shares, “The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (Ex. 15:2)—was sung at the exodus and at the rededication of the temple in Ezra’s day (Ps. 118:14). The phrase “become my salvation” can also be translated ‘given me victory.’ It was sung by the Red Sea after the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt by Moses, a prophet. It was sung in Jerusalem when the second temple was dedicated under the leadership of Ezra, a priest. It will be sung again when the Jewish nation accepts Jesus Christ as its King. They will recognize Him as “the Holy One of Israel” and willingly obey His holy law.”

What pleases God the most?  He is most pleased when sincere hearts praise Him, thanking Him for all He has done and then live His praises out loud to the world.  So, let’s raise the roof and sing our hearts out to the One who is greatest and now lives in us who believe and follow Him!  “The Holy of Israel.”  The God of all nations! 

Lord,

I do praise and thank you with all that is in me this morning.  I am going to praise you all day long.  You have renewed my Spirit, restored my soul this morning by Your Word given to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I want to live a life of praise to You!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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LET’S TALK ABOUT JESUS!

Let’s talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He,

The Lord of lords supreme, through all eternity.

The great I AM, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door,

 Let’s talk about Jesus more and more.

These are the lyrics to a song of my youth!  It was sung often in youth group and sometimes in the church service.  The song’s catchy tune stays with you all day long.  I think of the words when I want to change my mood of being overwhelmed by our world that brings me down with gossip, unkindness, hatred and unrest.  Let’s talk about Jesus who is the opposite of world thinking and behaving.  Let’s talk about the One who saves us and makes whole.  Let’s talk about Jesus, God’s Son, who is Truth.  Let’s talk about Jesus who gifts us with His peace through all kinds of circumstances!

Isn’t He wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,

Isn’t Jesus my Lord wonderful!

Eyes have seen, ears have heard, it’s recorded in God’s Word,

Isn’t Jesus my Lord wonderful!

Isaiah is doing the same!  He is the first to talk about Jesus more and more in his prophetic message of the coming Messiah who will be King of kings and Lord of lords.  God is telling His People, through Isaiah, that Jesus, the One and Only, is coming to save them…Let’s talk about Jesus, root of Jesse, “who will bring everyone to awed attention”!

Wonderful, wonderful, Jesus is to me!

Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God is He!

Saving me, keeping me from all sin and shame.

Wonderful is my Redeemer, praise His name.

Isaiah 11, The Message

A Green Shoot from Jesse’s Stump

1-5 A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump,
    from his roots a budding Branch.
The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him,
    the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength,
    the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God.
Fear-of-God
    will be all his joy and delight.
He won’t judge by appearances,
    won’t decide on the basis of hearsay.
He’ll judge the needy by what is right,
    render decisions on earth’s poor with justice.
His words will bring everyone to awed attention.
    A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked.
Each morning he’ll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots,
    and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.

A Living Knowledge of God

6-9 The wolf will romp with the lamb,
    the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
    and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
    their calves and cubs grow up together,
    and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
    the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
    on my holy mountain.
The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
    a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

* * *

10 On that day, Jesse’s Root will be raised high, posted as a rallying banner for the peoples. The nations will all come to him. His headquarters will be glorious.

11 Also on that day, the Master for the second time will reach out to bring back what’s left of his scattered people. He’ll bring them back from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Ethiopia, Elam, Sinar, Hamath, and the ocean islands.

12-16 And he’ll raise that rallying banner high, visible to all nations,
    gather in all the scattered exiles of Israel,
Pull in all the dispersed refugees of Judah
    from the four winds and the seven seas.
The jealousy of Ephraim will dissolve,
    the hostility of Judah will vanish—
Ephraim no longer the jealous rival of Judah,
    Judah no longer the hostile rival of Ephraim!
Blood brothers united, they’ll pounce on the Philistines in the west,
    join forces to plunder the people in the east.
They’ll attack Edom and Moab.
    The Ammonites will fall into line.
God will once again dry up Egypt’s Red Sea,
    making for an easy crossing.
He’ll send a blistering wind
    down on the great River Euphrates,
Reduce it to seven mere trickles.
    None even need get their feet wet!
In the end there’ll be a highway all the way from Assyria,
    easy traveling for what’s left of God’s people—
A highway just like the one Israel had
    when he marched up out of Egypt.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Isaiah paints a picture of what is now that of a tender shoot from a seemingly dead stump. All has been taken away in the exile.  But Isaiah was looking beyond His people’s trials to the glorious kingdom that will be established when Messiah comes to reign. David’s dynasty was ready to end, but out of his family the Messiah would come. A godly remnant of Jews would keep the nation alive so that the Messiah could be born.

Jesus’ kingdom will involve righteous rule because the Son of God and the Spirit of God will administer its affairs justly. When the Messiah-King speaks the word, He speaks with power (Rev. 19:15). This kingdom is unlike any other that has ever been.

Warren Wiersbe explains the “Highway” to God’s Kingdom for all who believe:

“The ‘root’ will become a ‘banner’ for the rallying of the people as God reaches out and gathers His people from the nations where they have been exiled. This event will be like a second exodus as God opens the way for His people to return to their land. In a limited sense, this promise was fulfilled after the Assyrian conquest and when the Jews left Babylonian captivity, but the ultimate fulfillment will be at the end of the age when the Messiah regathers His people (See also Matthew 24:31; Romans 11:25–29). The centuries-long division between Israel and Judah will come to an end, and even the Gentiles will walk on the ‘highway’ that leads to Jerusalem.”

The “highway” is one of Isaiah’s favorite images. Composers, use this image, too.  Have you heard the song, “Highway to Heaven” by Jessy Dixon? 

Isaiah reveals that those who obey the Lord have a level and smooth road to walk.  When God calls His people back to their land, He will prepare the way for them and lead them safely. He will remove obstacles so the people can travel easily. God’s highway will be called “the Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8). When Isaiah looked at his people, he saw a sinful nation that would one day walk the “Highway of Holiness” and enter into a righteous kingdom.

So, how do we respond?  Believe and be saved by the Jesus.  Walk with Jesus.  Talk about Jesus.  Point the way to Jesus who is the only Way, Truth and Life who will lead us on the right Highway to God.  I don’t like being lost, not knowing which road to take, do you? So, let’s talk about Jesus more and more—so others will know and follow. 

He is Lord. He is Lord.

He is risen from the dead, and He is Lord.

Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess

That Jesus Christ is Lord.

Lord,

Thank you for showing us the Way to Truth that gives Life eternal!  Thank you for consistently pulling us back on the road that leads all of us on the Highway to God!  Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank you for teaching us how to love God and each other.  Thank you, dear Jesus, for showing us who God is and how to relate to Him who loved us first.  May we talk about You more and more so others will know and follow.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION OR ENCOURAGEMENT?

“Go tell your brothers to stop doing that!”  As parents, we’ve all done it.  We sometimes send another child when we are busy to warn the others to stop what they are doing so they won’t get hurt.  We might send the oldest to tell the siblings and their cousins and friends to settle down and stop quarreling while we finish preparing their meal.  However, the sibling sent to say the words you tell them can sometimes become very proud of their assigned work and new “authority” and go way beyond what you tell them, saying and doing more than the parents asked them to do. 

Sometimes “the sent” march in, take over, and shout hateful words along with applying punishment that incites a riot much more destructive than the original behavior!  We’ve all seen it.  We’ve all experienced it.

God, the Father, uses the Assyrian army as a tool to punish His People as a way to get them to realize the futility in turning from Him and all that is good for them.  But the Assyrians sent become so proud and mighty, they decide to do and be more than God, by being more than God asked and doing more than God allowed.  Our passage begins with “Doom to you…”  The Assyrians will be punished far beyond what they expect for rising above God and going ahead of God.

Isaiah 10, The Message

You Who Legislate Evil

1-4 Doom to you who legislate evil,
    who make laws that make victims—
Laws that make misery for the poor,
    that rob my destitute people of dignity,
Exploiting defenseless widows,
    taking advantage of homeless children.
What will you have to say on Judgment Day,
    when Doomsday arrives out of the blue?
Who will you get to help you?
    What good will your money do you?
A sorry sight you’ll be then, huddled with the prisoners,
    or just some corpses stacked in the street.
Even after all this, God is still angry,
    his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.

Doom to Assyria!

5-11 “Doom to Assyria, weapon of my anger.
    My wrath is a club in his hands!
I send him against a godless nation,
    against the people I’m angry with.
I command him to strip them clean, rob them blind,
    and then push their faces in the mud and leave them.
But Assyria has another agenda;
    he has something else in mind.
He’s out to destroy utterly,
    to stamp out as many nations as he can.
Assyria says, ‘Aren’t my commanders all kings?
    Can’t they do whatever they like?

Didn’t I destroy Calno as well as Carchemish?
    Hamath as well as Arpad? Level Samaria as I did Damascus?
I’ve eliminated kingdoms full of gods
    far more impressive than anything in Jerusalem and Samaria.
So what’s to keep me from destroying Jerusalem
    in the same way I destroyed Samaria and all her god-idols?’”

12-13 When the Master has finished dealing with Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he’ll say, “Now it’s Assyria’s turn. I’ll punish the bragging arrogance of the king of Assyria, his high and mighty posturing, the way he goes around saying,

13-14 “‘I’ve done all this by myself.
    I know more than anyone.
I’ve wiped out the boundaries of whole countries.
    I’ve walked in and taken anything I wanted.
I charged in like a bull
    and toppled their kings from their thrones.
I reached out my hand and took all that they treasured
    as easily as a boy taking a bird’s eggs from a nest.
Like a farmer gathering eggs from the henhouse,
    I gathered the world in my basket,
And no one so much as fluttered a wing
    or squawked or even chirped.’”

15-19 Does an ax take over from the one who swings it?
    Does a saw act more important than the sawyer?
As if a shovel did its shoveling by using a ditch digger!
    As if a hammer used the carpenter to pound nails!
Therefore the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    will send a debilitating disease on his robust Assyrian fighters.
Under the canopy of God’s bright glory
    a fierce fire will break out.
Israel’s Light will burst into a conflagration.
    The Holy will explode into a firestorm,
And in one day burn to cinders
    every last Assyrian thornbush.
God will destroy the splendid trees and lush gardens.
    The Assyrian body and soul will waste away to nothing
    like a disease-ridden invalid.
A child could count what’s left of the trees
    on the fingers of his two hands.

* * *

20-23 And on that Day also, what’s left of Israel, the straggling survivors of Jacob, will no longer be fascinated by abusive, battering Assyria. They’ll lean on God, The Holy—yes, truly. The ragtag remnant—what’s left of Jacob—will come back to the Strong God. Your people Israel were once like the sand on the seashore, but only a scattered few will return. Destruction is ordered, brimming over with righteousness. For the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will finish here what he started all over the globe.

24-27 Therefore the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says: “My dear, dear people who live in Zion, don’t be terrorized by the Assyrians when they beat you with clubs and threaten you with rods like the Egyptians once did. In just a short time my anger against you will be spent and I’ll turn my destroying anger on them. I, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will go after them with a cat-o’-nine-tails and finish them off decisively—as Gideon downed Midian at the rock Oreb, as Moses turned the tables on Egypt. On that day, Assyria will be pulled off your back, and the yoke of slavery lifted from your neck.”

* * *

27-32 Assyria’s on the move: up from Rimmon,
    on to Aiath,
through Migron,
    with a bivouac at Micmash.
They’ve crossed the pass,
    set camp at Geba for the night.
Ramah trembles with fright.
    Gibeah of Saul has run off.
Cry for help, daughter of Gallim!
    Listen to her, Laishah!
    Do something, Anathoth!
Madmenah takes to the hills.
    The people of Gebim flee in panic.
The enemy’s soon at Nob—nearly there!
    In sight of the city he shakes his fist
At the mount of dear daughter Zion,
    the hill of Jerusalem.

33-34 But now watch this: The Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    swings his ax and lops the branches
,
Chops down the giant trees,
    lays flat the towering forest-on-the-march.
His ax will make toothpicks of that forest,
    that Lebanon-like army reduced to kindling.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Sometimes we are “sent” by God to warn our brothers and sisters of the consequences of their sinful behavior and show them God’s better ways to relate to each other.  The warning to us, as God’s instruments/tools, are to avoid taking God’s place in judgement, but instead help others see God, hear God and move toward God with better ways of behaving as written in His Word.  We do tell them exactly what to do according to our opinions, we go to God’s Word for information.  We ask questions, pray together, while seeking help from His Holy Spirit who guides all of us.

“You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.”  Hebrews 3:13

We should be aware and stay focused on Jesus so that we recognize the spiritual dangers that exist. But we should also encourage each other to be faithful to the Lord. Christian believers in Jesus belong to each other and need each other.  We are all siblings with Jesus to God, our Father!

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24, MSG

Paul also offers another great explanation of being sent as “encouragers” for each other as we are all in the same shoes on this journey to live for God with Jesus living in us helping us.  “God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”  1 Thessalonians 5:11, MSG

THINK before we speak.  This is a good filter to sift our thoughts through before spilling them out to each other:

T—Is what I’m about to say God’s Truth?

H—Is what I’m about to say coming from God’s Holy Spirit as a way to Help?

I—Is what I’m about to say going to Inspire this person to find and follow Jesus, “good works”?

N—Is what I’m about to say Necessary at this time?  God’s timing is perfect.  Pray for God’s timing in saying what He wants you to say in the right Spirit.  “Speak the Truth in love” says Paul the Apostle.

K—Is what I’m about to say void of all anger and self-righteousness, but absolutely Kind as Jesus is kind and loving, compassionate, merciful, and full of grace?

Lord,

May Your Holy Spirit filter our thoughts that lead to words of real love for each other. Help us to love like you love us—without conditions, full of grace and mercy.  May we be your instruments of encouragement that are used to build each other up, pointing the way to You always.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THINGS AREN’T THAT BAD…REALLY?

How bad does it have to get to turn back to God?  Pride and arrogance, thinking we have life under control, are tough, ingrained attitudes to let go of but it is this very thing that keeps us in the Dark and blocks us from seeing the Light.  Isaiah, the prophet of God, who speaks of things to come from God, shouts out Truth to his current society of religious leaders and followers and their current situation.  Isaiah give them (and us) a “sit-rep”, if you will, of what it is like to walk in darkness.  But soon, about 400 years later, they will see a Great Light that will dispel all darkness.  That Great Light is Jesus, God’s Son, born of a virgin, sent to save the world from sin.  All sin.  Everyone who believes—forgiven.

Isaiah 9, The Message

A Child Has Been Born—for Us!

But there’ll be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he’ll make that whole area glorious—the road along the Sea, the country past the Jordan, international Galilee.

2-7 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts
and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and clubs and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!

He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.

His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.

God Answered Fire with Fire

8-10 The Master sent a message against Jacob.
    It landed right on Israel’s doorstep.
All the people soon heard the message,
    Ephraim and the citizens of Samaria.
But they were a proud and arrogant bunch.
    They dismissed the message, saying,
“Things aren’t that bad.
    We can handle anything that comes.
If our buildings are knocked down,
    we’ll rebuild them bigger and finer.
If our forests are cut down,
    we’ll replant them with finer trees.”

11-12 So God incited their adversaries against them,
    stirred up their enemies to attack:
From the east, Arameans; from the west, Philistines.
    They made hash of Israel.
But even after that, he was still angry,
    his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.

13-17 But the people paid no mind to him who hit them,
    didn’t seek God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
So God hacked off Israel’s head and tail,
    palm branch and reed, both on the same day.
The bigheaded elders were the head,
    the lying prophets were the tail.
Those who were supposed to lead this people
    led them down blind alleys,
And those who followed the leaders
    ended up lost and confused.
That’s why the Master lost interest in the young men,
    had no feeling for their orphans and widows.
All of them were godless and evil,
    talking filth and folly.
And even after that, he was still angry,
    his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.

18-21 Their wicked lives raged like an out-of-control fire,
    the kind that burns everything in its path—
Trees and bushes, weeds and grasses—
    filling the skies with smoke.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies answered fire with fire,
    set the whole country on fire,
Turned the people into consuming fires,
    consuming one another in their lusts—
Appetites insatiable, stuffing and gorging
    themselves left and right with people and things.
But still they starved. Not even their children
    were safe from their greedy hunger.
Manasseh ate Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,
    and then the two ganged up against Judah.
And after that, he was still angry,
    his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Get out of the shade of darkness and all things dark that keep us there.  Head for the Light that gives life now and forever!

And did you know?

The return of the Jewish remnant to their land is a major theme in these chapters of Isaiah! When Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim), the nation was never restored but became what we know as Samaria. After the Babylonian captivity (606–586 B.C.), the people of Judah were given another chance to establish themselves in the land, and through them the Lord brought the Messiah into the world. Had a remnant not returned, God’s plans for redeeming a lost world might have been frustrated. How much would depend on that small remnant! 

Jesus, The Light of the World, will meet a woman of Samaria at the well at noon, the heat of the day, to offer forgiveness and wholeness.  She accepted and ran back, without her water jars, to tell the entire village of Samaria that she had met the One who is Savior and Lord!  He is the Way, the Only Way, to leave all that is dark to the Light of God’s love forever.

Lord,

Your Plan, all along, was to save us from our sins and to teach us how to live your best life—loving you and loving each other.  Thank you for working through the remnant to bring us all into the Light of all things good, right and pleasing to you.  To you be all glory, honor, and praise forevermore.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE LAST WORD

How are you in meetings?  I have attended a lot of meetings of humans in my career as a teacher and in ministry as a leader.  As I sat there listening, I tried to stay focused on what was being said, but sometimes my mind would wander to what I should be accomplishing in my classroom or in ministry, what calls I needed to make or on what project I needed to complete.  I felt robbed of the time I sat there.  In this day and time, we ask, “Couldn’t this have been written in an email for me to read later?”

Have you ever been in this situation?  Did you keep checking the time?  Did you stop your unfocused thoughts for that moment with ears pricked when the speaker says, “And now in closing…” so the real reason of the meeting is expressed and you can leave?  We ask ourselves, “What are they trying to tell me that will benefit what I have been given to do?”  “What is the real message they are trying to convey?”  Are all these words being said the truth or summations and opinions of past experiences.  What is the bottom line?  What is the last word?

In a world of busy activities that need to be done at a certain time in a specific way, we sometimes miss the last word from the One who loved us first, loves us most and loves us forever.  It was no different in the time of Isaiah.  We might be impressed with who God is and even throw up a few prayers when we are in trouble; but are we hearing, believing, and following His “Last Word”—Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us”? 

Isaiah 8, The Message

Then God told me, “Get a big sheet of paper and write in indelible ink, ‘This belongs to Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Spoil-Speeds-Plunder-Hurries).’”

2-3 I got two honest men, Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah, to witness the document. Then I went home to my wife, the prophetess. She conceived and gave birth to a son.

3-4 God told me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Before that baby says ‘Daddy’ or ‘Mamma’ the king of Assyria will have plundered the wealth of Damascus and the riches of Samaria.”

* * *

5-8 God spoke to me again, saying:

Because this people has turned its back
    on the gently flowing stream of Shiloah
And gotten all excited over Rezin
    and the son of Remaliah,
I’m stepping in and facing them with
    the wild floodwaters of the Euphrates,
The king of Assyria and all his fanfare,
    a river in flood, bursting its banks,
Pouring into Judah, sweeping everything before it,
    water up to your necks,
A huge wingspan of a raging river,
    O Immanuel, spreading across your land.”

* * *

9-10 But face the facts, all you oppressors, and then wring your hands.
    Listen, all of you, far and near.
Prepare for the worst and wring your hands.
    Yes, prepare for the worst and wring your hands!
Plan and plot all you want—nothing will come of it.
    All your talk is mere talk, empty words,
Because when all is said and done,
    the last word is Immanuel—God-With-Us.

A Boulder Blocking Your Way

11-15 God spoke strongly to me, grabbed me with both hands and warned me not to go along with this people. He said:

“Don’t be like this people,
    always afraid somebody is plotting against them.
Don’t fear what they fear.
    Don’t take on their worries.
If you’re going to worry,
    worry about The Holy. Fear God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
The Holy can be either a Hiding Place
    or a Boulder blocking your way,
The Rock standing in the willful way
    of both houses of Israel,
A barbed-wire Fence preventing trespass
    to the citizens of Jerusalem.
Many of them are going to run into that Rock
    and get their bones broken,
Get tangled up in that barbed wire
    and not get free of it.”

* * *

16-18 Gather up the testimony,
    preserve the teaching for my followers
,
While I wait for God as long as he remains in hiding,
    while I wait and hope for him.
I stand my ground and hope,
    I and the children God gave me as signs to Israel,
Warning signs and hope signs from God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    who makes his home in Mount Zion.

19-22 When people tell you, “Try out the fortunetellers.
    Consult the spiritualists.
Why not tap into the spirit-world,
    get in touch with the dead?”
Tell them, “No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.”
    People who try the other ways get nowhere—a dead end!

Frustrated and famished,
    they try one thing after another.
When nothing works out they get angry,
    cursing first this god and then that one,
Looking this way and that,
    up, down, and sideways—and seeing nothing,
A blank wall, an empty hole.
    They end up in the dark with nothing.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Admit it.  We all want peace but we worry about everything.  We look for love and advice in all the wrong places trying to validate our own selfish thoughts.  This sometimes, debilitating activity, comes from unfocused, wandering minds that think mostly about what has to be done with who to impress instead of developing who we need to be.  Jesus, the Last Word, had something to say about worry, centuries after Isaiah’s proclamation from God;

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:25-34,

I have learned that what is repeated in the Bible is very important to God.

In worry, we become pagans (unbelievers).

To worry takes our minds off Jesus and what He taught.  To worry sends our thoughts to darker places, ravenously consuming worldview thinking—what others think, what to do so others will notice us, what we think we need to control, with how much we need to grab for ourselves.

True believers Seek God first, seek His will, hear his voice, obey His Plan, accept His provisions and protection while in worship of Him with all our hearts, minds and souls.  And the world worry?  It dissipates as we turn back to God!  The worry we had about the things around us become a foolish, useless, time-consuming effort.

God spoke strongly to Isaiah—

“Don’t be like this people,
    always afraid somebody is plotting against them.
Don’t fear what they fear.
    Don’t take on their worries.
If you’re going to worry,
    worry about The Holy. Fear God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Jesus, our Last Word, speak strongly to us today—Do not worry, Seek Me before doing anything else and above all else! 

To not worry is a process.  The Psalmist explains how to move from world-worry of doing more and more to impress others to a place of thinking more about who God is so that we can BE more like He created us to be “in His image.” 

“He (God) says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps 46:10 It is God that we should be worried about pleasing with concern about becoming more like Him.  Seek Him first, last, and all day long.

Be still and know that He is God

Be still and know God

Be still and know

Be still.

Be.

Jesus is the Last Word.    

Lord,

I confess that I am easily distracted as a busy person.  My thoughts go to unholy places that are self-serving and are useless to my becoming more like you, developing your character in my being.  Help me to refocus, renew my mind, refresh my spirit with your Holy Spirit by cleansing all that is unpleasing and dark to you within me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation flowing through me. You are the Last Word to me.  You are my everything.  I love it when we are together.  I love being with you.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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PIOUS FAITH IS NO FAITH AT ALL

–And by the way, Jesus is coming…

Has someone ever come to you with lots of words about your impending challenging situation along with a way out?  This someone examined the problem and now councils you with a strategy to fix it.  How do you respond?  “No problem, I’ve got this.” Or “Tell me more.”  I don’t know about you, but I’ve said and done both with good and bad results.

God has told Isaiah to tell the King of Judah how to avoid war between the surrounding kingdoms of Israel.  But Ahaz isn’t listening. But wait, there’s more Ahaz!  Isaiah is also given words by God to give to the King of Judah about the coming Messiah, the Promise of a Savior; but “buries the lead” within the guidance and direction from God.  As we read these words written centuries before Jesus came, we think wait a minute, he’s talking about our Savior, Jesus Christ!  Why, yes he is.

Ahaz’s pious faith is no faith at all.  Ahaz’s faith doesn’t have “a leg to stand on”.  He goes his own way, doing his own thing, because the word tells us he already made an alliance with the enemy and feels he cannot back out.  “God spoke again to Ahaz. This time he said, ‘Ask for a sign from your God. Ask anything. Be extravagant. Ask for the moon!’  But Ahaz said, “I’d never do that. I’d never make demands like that on God!”  Why?  Because Ahaz’s mind is made up and he won’t budge.  Sigh.

Think about it, friends!  How many times do we do that in our prideful walk down the wrong path in life.  We think and say, “Well, that’s that, I’ll just keep going down this road that I built, come what may.  There’s no turning back now.”  But wait! THERE IS a Way to turn back and allow God to lead us out of our own self-made messes! 

Real faith seeks real answers to all our problems.  Real faith goes to God with everything, “asking for the moon”!  Real faith trusts in God who so loved us He sent His Son to save us! 

Isaiah 7, The Message

A Virgin Will Bear a Son

1-2 During the time that Ahaz son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel attacked Jerusalem, but the attack sputtered out. When the Davidic government learned that Aram had joined forces with Ephraim (that is, Israel), Ahaz and his people were badly shaken. They shook like trees in the wind.

3-6 Then God told Isaiah, “Go and meet Ahaz. Take your son Shear-jashub (A-Remnant-Will-Return) with you. Meet him south of the city at the end of the aqueduct where it empties into the upper pool on the road to the public laundry. Tell him, Listen, calm down. Don’t be afraid. And don’t panic over these two burnt-out cases, Rezin of Aram and the son of Remaliah. They talk big but there’s nothing to them. Aram, along with Ephraim’s son of Remaliah, have plotted to do you harm. They’ve conspired against you, saying, ‘Let’s go to war against Judah, dismember it, take it for ourselves, and set the son of Tabeel up as a puppet king over it.’

7-9 But God, the Master, says,

“It won’t happen.
    Nothing will come of it
Because the capital of Aram is Damascus
    and the king of Damascus is a mere man, Rezin.
As for Ephraim, in sixty-five years
    it will be rubble, nothing left of it.
The capital of Ephraim is Samaria,
    and the king of Samaria is the mere son of Remaliah.
If you don’t take your stand in faith,
    you won’t have a leg to stand on.”

* * *

10-11 God spoke again to Ahaz. This time he said, “Ask for a sign from your God. Ask anything. Be extravagant. Ask for the moon!”

12 But Ahaz said, “I’d never do that. I’d never make demands like that on God!”

13-17 So Isaiah told him, “Then listen to this, government of David! It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us). By the time the child is twelve years old, able to make moral decisions, the threat of war will be over. Relax, those two kings that have you so worried will be out of the picture. But also be warned: God will bring on you and your people and your government a judgment worse than anything since the time the kingdom split, when Ephraim left Judah. The king of Assyria is coming!”

18-19 That’s when God will whistle for the flies at the headwaters of Egypt’s Nile, and whistle for the bees in the land of Assyria. They’ll come and infest every nook and cranny of this country. There’ll be no getting away from them.

20 And that’s when the Master will take the razor rented from across the Euphrates—the king of Assyria no less!—and shave the hair off your heads and genitals, leaving you shamed, exposed, and denuded. He’ll shave off your beards while he’s at it.

21-22 It will be a time when survivors will count themselves lucky to have a cow and a couple of sheep. At least they’ll have plenty of milk! Whoever’s left in the land will learn to make do with the simplest foods—curds, whey, and honey.

23-25 But that’s not the end of it. This country that used to be covered with fine vineyards—thousands of them, worth millions!—will revert to a weed patch. Weeds and thornbushes everywhere! Good for nothing except, perhaps, hunting rabbits. Cattle and sheep will forage as best they can in the fields of weeds—but there won’t be a trace of all those fertile and well-tended gardens and fields.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Great is God’s faithfulness to us—even when we make Him tired with our thoughts and actions.  “It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired,” says Isaiah.   We can almost hear the sigh of God when we go our own way and don’t listen with faith in going His best way for us.  Ahaz already had his own plan in place without consulting God.  His faith was in himself alone.  That is a dangerous place to be for all of us.

How can we avoid making God “tired” with our pious, weak faith?  But wholeheartedly trusting in what He says and living it out loud!  We can ask God anything and everything about life here so why don’t we?  He knows everything!  He knows us.  He knows the future with the best path to take.  He cares about us and wants us to live with Him for eternity.  Why trust ourselves or anyone else on earth?  I don’t know why. Jesus reminds believing followers to ask God for anything in His Name and God will respond to us with His best for us.  (See Matthew 7)

It’s not too late to respond!  Turn back to what God wants, even if we have to make adjustments and changes in our lives, humbling ourselves before Jesus in true repentance.  And here’s the best news at all—Jesus did exactly that for us!  (See Philippians 2) He humbled Himself, leaving the throne of heaven, coming to earth to seek and to save the lost—you and me.

Isaiah pulls out the “lead message”, the Promised Messiah who will save Ahaz and the world, but still Ahaz goes his own way.  Sigh.

Lord,

You are everything I want. You are all I need.  You are Savior, Lord and King forever.  I love you with all my heart, mind, and soul.  I don’t want to be like Ahaz.  I accept the changes I must make so I can hear your voice above all other voices in this world with a mind to follow you given this love in my heart placed there by you.  Thank for building your faith of You in me that I can stand on forever!

In Jesus Name, Amen

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand…

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